County commissioners and law enforcement across Texas often talk a good game about reducing recidivism and diverting people with mental illness. However, at the same time, many officials—and the jailhouse culture—erect barriers to programming that could help inmates while they are incarcerated. Romy Zarate says such programs can turn a life around. “I was probably in the county jail about four times. Without the programming, I was in and out,” says Zarate. “When I was in, I was planning where I would score when I got out; after the programming, I stayed out.”
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The Travis County jail is one of four nationwide — and the only in Texas — to allow new moms to breastfeed in custody.
“It’s in the interest of everybody to really assist a woman in that situation to rebuild her life and create a healthy home for her child,” said Diana Claitor, director of the nonprofit Texas Jail Project.
How did Athena Covarrubias manage to hang herself in a shower stall?
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, a few minutes after 10am, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office sent notice of what will likely be recognized as Texas’ 30th suicide in a county jail this year. The news came just as Lt. Gov.Dan Patrick and Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chair of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, were decrying the fact that the state had already recorded 29. Since 2012, 100 have suffered self-inflicted deaths in Texas jails